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Fox Point-Bayside School District Will Cut Nearly 10 Positions

Teachers concerned about morale and lack of input on reductions.

The will shed the equivalent of nearly 10 full-time positions next year in response to anticipated cuts in state aid.

The action comes as the district is looking at a $800,309 budget deficit in the 2011-12 school year.

To offset the shortfall, the School Board voted Monday to reduce the teaching staff by 5.4 full-time equivalent positions and the number of aide positions by 4.5 FTEs, which would save the district $600,000.

Administrators also expect to receive an estimated $129,400 in revenue from the state's open enrollment program. The board voted to approve 29 open enrollment seats, down four seats from last year.

These teaching staff reductions mean that one teacher in the seventh and eighth grades will teach two core subjects, instead of each subject being taught by one teacher.

At the meeting, teachers told the board that the threat of cuts was taking a toll on morale.

"The teachers have tried to keep it out of the classroom," Cary Tianen, a social studies teacher at said. "It's hard. Privately, teachers do feel underappreciated. There's been a lot of finger-pointing - the word 'scapegoat' comes to mind."

One particular cut that upset many of those in the audience was the elimination of the full-time school psychologist.

"We currently have one full-time school psychologist who also serves as a special education coordinator," District Administrator Rachel Boechler said. "We’ll have the same coverage, but split between two people. We have staffing in this building above the level that’s critical – it's a more efficient use of resources."

Other options on the table

Administrators and the board are looking at additional ways to reduce that deficit, but have not entirely settled on what actions to take. Options being considered include:

  • Reductions in school and departmental budgets by 10 percent across the board; 
  • Delaying facility maintenance;
  • Delaying planned retirement payments; and
  • Utilizing the district's fund balance.

Boechler gave greater detail about the elimination of some teaching positions, explaining that the teachers who are retiring this year simply will not be replaced.

"We’re consciously moving from a limit of 20 to 25, and only in seventh and eighth grade because we think the older students are most able to function in that kind of setting, and to be honest, that’s still considered low compared to other districts,” she said.

These changes brought numerous questions from the audience, including whether any cuts were made within the administration and whether the district was looking at reducing busing.

Reactions from the crowd

Throughout the meeting, comments made by audience members were greeted with applause. But one teacher, Mark Conforti, received a thunderous standing ovation when he raised concerns over the way staffing decisions were being made.

"Through all of these changes, no one has bothered to ask for the input of the teaching professionals in the school district, some with over 30 years of classroom experience," said Conforti, a math teacher and chief negotiator for the Fox Point-Bayside Teachers Association. "It is much easier to own a change when one feels as though they have been part of the process."

"My worry is that with the loss of collective bargaining, everyone will be silenced," Conforti said, referring to the provisions in the recently passed state budget repair bill.

"I went to Bayside starting in 1962, I went there for 10 years," said Julie Trump, an art teacher at Bayside Middle School. "My dad was on the School Board, my mom was the full-time school psychologist for 30 years. And then I've taught there for 15. The thing that brings this community together is wanting of good schools, good education for everyone." 

Conforti reminded the board and the audience about what it really means to be a teacher.

"There is no better feeling when the doctor performing your surgery is a former student that tells you that you were his favorite teacher," Conforti said. "It’s then that you realize what it is that you make. You can’t buy it, you can’t sell it, and you can’t learn it. You just do it.

"You see, teachers make a difference," he added. "I would like to publicly thank my professional colleagues for making a difference."  

lu March 23, 2011 at 11:41 PM
The psychologist is the easy one, you have insurance. See your Dr. on your time and dime.
Mira Bluesky March 24, 2011 at 03:32 AM
Why is it only teachers are getting the boot, while the top heavy and overpaid administrators always get away unscathed? Oh right, they aren't going to look at cutting their own positions as a possible solution to the budget gutting. Shared sacrifice? Wisconsin doesn't believe in shared sacrifice! Teachers and teaching aids, and school psychologists, that's who you cut, not administration. Even Walker knows that.
Craig March 24, 2011 at 11:58 AM
We love many of our teachers at Bayside! I'm surprised and sorry to hear that a minority feel unappreciated. I can tell you that the great teachers are recognized and appreciated regularly. Seniority should weigh in to a minor degree but it is all about performance and merit. Tough times and tough decisions. None of us want our children's education to suffer. There need to be cuts - let's get it right. Thoughtful consideration and debate is welcome.
Michael Schwister March 24, 2011 at 12:37 PM
Shame on us for supporting libertarian agendas and preserving welfare for the richest in America. Public education is on the edge. The voucher system could well end our excellent public schools. State government has given you an axe to educate our children. What do you want to cut with that axe? Get mad and tell a politician. Get mad and protest. Get mad at the people responsible. Administrators, psychologists, coaches etc are not the problem. You don't have to cut your schools if you use your axe to instead cut aid to the wealthy. Its a much bigger tree, worthy of group effort,and many axes.

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